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21 July 2014

Africa: New Evidence Shows Chronically Poor Countries Are Gathering Pace in Tackling Hunger and Undernutrition.


 According to latest research published by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), some of the poorest developing countries such as Afghanistan, Burundi and Liberia are making significant progress in their commitment to reducing hunger and undernutrition witnessed through increased action on these issues.
Launched today, Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI) findings show that some countries that have long seen little action in dealing with hunger and undernutrition, are now making significant efforts to tackle these issues. They are putting in place laws, suitable policies and increasing public investment to change that. For instance, Burundi has improved access to clean water and sanitation and increased agricultural spending; these are large improvements in a country with an 'extremely alarming' hunger status.

As globally, levels of hunger and undernutrition remain unacceptably high, momentum to tackle these needs to be maintained. Between 2011-2013, a total of 842 million people (one in eight people) in the world were estimated to be suffering from chronic hunger according to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Additionally, in many countries in Africa and South Asia, many children under five years are stunted, or too short for their age. Recent research also shows that undernutrition contributed to 45% deaths of children under 5 in 2011.

HANCI measures political commitment to tackling hunger and undernutrition in 45 high burden developing countries, and compares these in terms of policies, laws and spending efforts. Lead HANCI researcher at IDS, Dr Dolf te Lintelo said: "HANCI uses the latest available data to assess the political commitment of governments to address hunger and undernutrition. It shines a spotlight on how they prioritise action on hunger and undernutrition, often differently."
Understanding the difference between hunger and nutrition is vital in the fight to tackle them. Where hunger is the result of an empty stomach, undernutrition is caused by many factors including poor diversity of food, lack of clean water and sanitation, inadequate infant and young child feeding practices, and unavailability of health care. Government interventions must hence differently address hunger and undernutrition and commitment to addressing one does not necessarily translate in addressing the other.

According to Glen Tarman, International Advocacy Director, ACF International: "As HANCI points out, undernutrition undermines all aspects of development. In a vicious cycle, poor nutritional intake can make a child more susceptible to infectious diseases, while exposure to disease can lower a child's appetite and nutrient absorption. Worldwide, 165 million children have had their physical and cognitive development restricted because they have not received the nutrients they need. In some instances, malnutrition costs national economies as much as 16.5% of GDP - a cost that developing countries cannot afford."
While some countries are gaining momentum in tackling hunger and undernutrition, there are many within the Index that are stagnating or even declining.

 At the top of the ranking is Guatemala, yet the Government of Guatemala has made little improvement in a year and is closely followed by Peru and Malawi. At the bottom of HANCI, contrary to those countries making clear efforts to resolve hunger and undernutrition, some countries including Sudan, Myanmar and Guinea Bissau have stagnated or dropped in their commitments.
So as Marie Rumsby, Head of Hunger and Nutrition, Save the Children notes: "What is primarily holding back countries from addressing hunger and undernutrition and what is driving forward progress where it is happening is the absence or presence of political leadership. This Index is a very valuable tool to measure what really matters: whether or not politicians that hold power are using it responsibly to address the 21st century injustice of so many millions of children and adults without the adequate energy and nutrients in their bodies and diets to live full and healthy lives."

Further information
To view the full HANCI data and download the report please visit www.hancindex.org. The website will allow users to explore the index data in depth to analyse and compare how each country has performed.

HANCI has been produced with funding from Irish Aid, the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) and Transform Nutrition.


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